Amtrak service to Chicago really would have helped me out these past couple of weeks. Both last weekend and this weekend I find myself having to head to downtown Chicago for functions with friends. Last week I paid $36 bucks to park. This week I'm downloading a couple of parking apps to see if I can keep it to $20 bucks. Between gas, parking and the hassle of driving I would have rather taken the train. So will Amtrak's "Rock Island Rocket" ever become a reality between Moline and Chicago?

Rick Harnish, Executive Director of Midwest High Speed Rail sat down with WQAD for a discussion about where the rail project is and what needs to be done to make it a reality. Bluntly, we're not much further along than the last blog I wrote on the subject.

According to the WQAD story, as it stands now the Illinois Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration reached a deal last June that gave Illinois another year to use millions of dollars in federal funding earmarked for the Chicago to Moline rail project.

The big question is will Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker help push the project along and fund it? Without his support, it's as dead as when former Governor Bruce Rauner put it on hold. Harnish told WQAD he thinks it will happen, but citizens who want rail in the Quad Cities are going to need to push Pritzker to make it happen.

As for how successful the project will be, Harnish told WQAD Amtrak runs five trains a day to Springfield that are successful. He thinks five trains a day between the Quad Cities and Chicago would be even more successful because our area is more economically vibrant.

The salient point to pick up here is the following: If you want rail service between Chicago and Moline, or Chicago and Davenport, Chicago and Des Moines, or really anywhere, you need to push your elected officials to make it happen. For regional / local services you're talking governors, state senators, state representatives. Why? Amtrak won't consider running regional trains unless they're supported by the states they run in. For long distance trains, you should contact your representatives in Congress, because those trains are federally funded.

It's important to be vocal because Amtrak is a favorite whipping boy of presidents, senators, and representatives. An example of government waste and throwing good money after bad if you're to believe some of our elected officials. Except, here's the thing, Congress has never fully funded Amtrak so it can run properly. Yet, it chugs along on starvation budgets and does OK. The Midwest routes funded by Illinois, Missouri, Michigan and Wisconsin do very well and have grown.

The bottom line is: If you want to be able to travel by train between Moline and Chicago, or hop on a train in Galesburg to the Western States. Advocate. Tell your elected officials at every level of government. If you don't, at best expect the status quo. At worst, there won't be a train to board in Moline, Galesburg or Chicago.